AV-over-IP is not a new concept. The consumer video market has delivered video over IP networks for some time. Just think about Netflix, YouTube, or Tok-tok. It is also not that new in the corporate market, either. AV and IT have been converging in the corporate world for some time. As digital communication needs have spread through business, public areas, and educational institutions, this creates requirements for more advanced ways to distribute content. Modern audio-visual AV-over-IP solutions are an easy way to provide content over large-scale installations.
However, AV-over-IP has not touched UCC spaces like conference rooms, board rooms, and huddle spaces. Certainly, there are many features of traditional AV over IP that are overkill or not applicable in a conference room, but the current AV-over-IP technologies are also missing key features that would be required in these spaces. This is mostly because the needs of UCC spaces and architectures of traditional AV-over-IP solutions are quite a bit different.
When a conference room is installed with a video conferencing system, the main parts are the room PC, front of room big screen(s), camera(s), audio (speakers and mics), and a control panel as the human interface. Under the assumption that the PC is in the room and near or behind the big screen(s), then it may not be obvious why AV-over-IP would be needed. The main benefit of AV-over-IP in UCC is that the human interface control panel is generally on the table and can be many, many feet from the in-room PC. The problem can be boiled down to one thing…CABLES.
One major pain point of current systems is that traditional PC interfaces like USB and HDMI were developed for short range and are effectively limited by the length of transmission. Plus, these cables cannot be terminated by an IT technician, so they must be installed at a fixed length and with connectors intact, requiring large holes and extra space to accommodate the USB or HDMI cables and connectors. Installing the control panel, even in a small room, often requires special active cables that are difficult to install and a power outlet at the table to power it. This is expensive, unreliable, and limits future flexibility to re-configure a room. And flexibility, especially these days, is paramount to any conference room.
In larger rooms, the active cables become dedicated extenders that can easily cost 2-3x the cost of your tabletop touch display. Add to that the AC power requirements, meaning a call to an electrician to install an outlet near the table. This one step can cost thousands, depending on the complexity of the power installation. It would save a lot more time, money, and effort if rather than focusing on the cost of just the touchscreen in isolation and ignoring all the extraneous costs that really add up, we instead weighed the pros of going with a more comprehensive solution that solved many cost issues at once.
However, imagine a tabletop control panel that connects over a single Cat5e (Ethernet) cable that provides not only the video for the touch control, but the power for it, the communication for touch interaction, a connection for your USB based tabletop speaker/mic and the HDMI capture for remote sharing. Imagine a control panel that needs only 1 cable, and other table side equipment like the speaker/mic can be connected through it. This would be the ultimate UCC solution, connected over a simple, inexpensive interface every IT person knows. It can be installed at exactly the length you need and terminated by techs. AC power is not required at the table, reducing cost, and increasing flexibility.
To adapt AV-over-IP to UCC spaces however would require significant changes to traditional AV-over-IP and shifts in understanding around cost constraints, latency, resolution, bandwidth, compression and more. The needs are different, but AV-over-IP in UCC spaces can provide immense benefits in many of these areas in previously unexplored ways. These changes will be explored in future posts to eventually land on the ultimate UCC tabletop control interface.